May-June 2014 - Austin 3
Neil’s car on the Practical Classics stand at the NEC Restoration Show
In this issue;
Repairing front displacers.
Affordable Hydrolastic pumps.
NEC Restoration Show report.
Neil and family go on holiday in a 3-Litre.
It’s all about the ride says Richard Althrop.
Out and about.
Odds and Ends.
Things have been rather busy for yours truly over the last couple of months, with
the announcement that my beloved car had made the final 10 for the restorer of
the year competition saw some rather frantic preparation for the journey and the
show itself. Then we looked at the calendar and realised the show was wedged
within our pre-booked holiday! This called for some rather involved planning, more
on that later in the newsletter. I am pleased to say that all went well and we made
a decent display at the show, lovely to have had some club members come along
to say hello, especially as some of you changed your plans to attend on Sunday to
come and say hello to us. (I didn’t go myself on the Saturday) It was a privilege to
be able to represent not only the cars but the club as well at such a large and
prestigious event. We knew we were unlikely to win but it was great to have been
a part of the competition, it was pleasing to drive the car into the hall, our car is
mildly pampered but is certainly not a “trailer queen.”
The Owners Club facebook page has become a busy and friendly place, rest assured it is a
race free page and always will be. If you want to take a look and join in the friendly
banter, here is a link. https://www.facebook.com/groups/Austin3L/
New members since our last newsletter are, Robert Smith who is from Australia
David Thomson, and Shaun Greenan A warm club welcome to you all.
This newsletter is rather large, many thanks to Richard Falthrop for sending in your
article, much appreciated. I am so glad to have been able to help Richard with his
rear suspension repairs recently, another 3-litre with no squeaks from the rear,
working self levelling and a nice ride restored.
Our show season is looking busy, there are a good many BMC related shows this
year which I will list on the website and the facebook page.
I am pleased to say my front displacer repair appears to have been successful. We
are all very indebted to Jim Robertson for giving us a scrap unit to cut up, and for
Ian Downes and Kevin Morton who spent a few hours and rather a lot of cutting
discs cutting it open and working out how it was built and it’s operation, the repair
would not have been possible without this information so many thanks guys. The
unit is holding up well so far and the ride feels no different, I will keep testing it
for a few weeks. I am reliably informed the pressure inside the unit rises to around
1000 psi when driven hard so it’s a big ask of any repair to cope with that sort of
pressure, so far so good.
See you at an event soon I hope.
Repairing front Displacers
I was somewhat concerned to see a front displacer leaking on my own car a few weeks
before my forthcoming long journey to the NEC Restoration Show. I huge thanks to those
of you who offered to lend me one of your spare ones should I become stuck, that was
much appreciated and shows what sort of club members we have, you are a great bunch.
Just to recap on what I think is achievable with regard to repairing these units, the three
failures are; hoses split, top rubbers burst open, lower rubbers burst open. From a repair
point of view, hoses are easy to replace, a burst lower end is beyond hope of repair
currently, a burst top end I felt could be repaired and I have managed to do just that.
Some of the problem with the top end is the rubber thickness is quite thin, once this thin
film perishes and splits open water gets in and attacks the top of the valve area, this of
course causes more deterioration. I thought if I could get a liquid rubber that would bond
to metal and existing rubber, and cope with some flexing and contain the 250 psi of fluid
pressure within the unit it may be possible to repair one.
I have two spare units which are both split and leaking from the top so I decided to use
these as the basis for my trials. As shown in the picture below the rubber in the top centre
is rather perished and split, and this area is where the Hydrolastic fluid was weeping from.
The first step was to remove all the split and perished rubber and see what we had
beneath the rubber, the picture below shows the start of this process. The rusty cone in
the centre is the top of the valve assembly.
The next part of the process involves removing all traces of loose rubber and to also
remove all traces of rust on the metal areas. The rubber has to be cleaned, “keyed” and
have a special primer applied to allow the liquid rubber to bond to it. The metal areas
also have to be cleaned of rust and have the same treatment but the primer is of a
different type. The primers come in quite small quantities and are quite expensive; they
have a short shelf life too as does the liquid rubber component.
We do know these units were made in a mould and the upper facing area about to be
repaired is shaped, this process is not able to be repeated as a repair so a different
approach is needed. This involves using the top area effectively as a cup to contain the
rubber; this means the repair will be flat as opposed to the convex shape it was made
with. I do not consider this an issue, this area of the displacer has very little movement,
the valve unit is rolled into the body and therefore cannot move so therefore a relatively
firm rubber can be used. I did a lot of research into the types of rubber available and their
properties, coupled with what they were capable of in terms of pressure capacity and how
much of a bond they can achieve to metal and existing rubber components and what
primers were required. The rubber I used is an isocyanide two pack liquid compound.
The picture below shows the de-rusted displacer about to be cleaned and have its
Now for the exiting bit! The liquid rubber elements are thoroughly mixed and poured in to
the top of the displacers. Once in this state the compound becomes very thick after about
20 minutes, full curing in reasonable temperatures takes up to 72 hours.
After curing the next areas to consider are static testing followed by road testing. For
static testing I first had to build a jig to hold the units in to allow them to be pressurised.
This was a relatively simple task to do, the picture below shows the testing jig with one of
the repaired displacers being pressure tested. I used the A A Mason pump for pressurising
them as I figured the pressure gauge on this new pump would be very accurate. Both the
units I have repaired have been tested to 250psi in this way and are holding pressure.
The final stage is of course road testing, I have fitted a repaired unit to my own car and
will put some miles on it over the coming weeks and see how it performs; initially it
appears to be successful. Although the primers and the rubber itself are quite expensive,
one pack of the rubber solution has been sufficient to repair two units, if it gets two units
working and therefore two cars back on the road it is not only a worthwhile expense but a
good feeling to know we can repair obsolete parts.
As a secondary side to all this, during my research into the rubber products available, the
product I eventually settled on has many sides to it. It comes in three grades, hard
medium and soft. Each grade can also be adjusted for elasticity with another additive.
This means all sorts of components can be made subject to a mould and various
allowances during mixing of the components. There is nothing to stop engine mountings
being made now as well as a host of other parts. I do have rear wheel cylinder rubber
gaiters in my mind now as these are long since unavailable, except for the one new one I
have kept from many years ago with the thoughts of remaking in my mind for some years.
Low cost Hydrolastic pumps
I have been in touch with a company called A.A Mason, among other things, they make an
affordable Hydrolastic suspension pump. With the old Churchill ones now making £250 in
working order if you can find one, these ones are worth considering. From a personal point
of view the low loss connector version makes the most sense. A nice peace of mind
addition in your boot tool kit when you are going on long journeys too. Contact details as
follows; Tony Mason 01453 548766, email [email protected] web www.aamason.com
Here is an introduction from the manufacturers.
A A Mason Ltd is a small engineering company who make many specialist vehicle tools, we
realised the need to top-up Hydrolastic suspension systems and have developed a simple,
cheap suspension pump for the home mechanic. From our small engineering workshop
we make these pumps which are sold worldwide and this has lead to the production of a
cheap low-loss connector allowing safe discharge of suspension fluids as well as monitoring
of car suspension pressure via our pump. We have also developed an enhanced pump with
our low-loss connector, a bleed/vacuum connection point, double check valves and a fluid
chamber end cap.
The enhanced pump allows the collection of released suspension fluids via its bleed port
and the facility to connect an external hand operated vacuum pump so air can be removed
from the car system prior to refilling and re-pressurisation. With the enhanced pump the
car system pressure may be monitored during refilling or at other times without the risk of
losing appreciable amounts of fluid from the car suspension system. We recommend the
Mityvac hand operated vacuum pumps for the air removal task as these can subsequently
used on a variety of other vehicle related tasks such as brake bleeding and maintenance of
engine cooling systems. We provide an instruction sheet with both versions of our pumps,
explaining the basic operation and giving hints on likely problems.
We carry stocks of both versions of our pumps and also of our low-loss connector so
despatch is usually possible within a day or two of receiving an order. We offer club
members a special discounted price for our standard pump of £55.00 including first class
UK postage and for the special enhanced version of the pump with its low-loss connector,
£84.50 again including UK first class postage. The low-loss connector on its own is £29.50
including postage to the UK. For enquiries overseas please email or ring us for postage
Practical Classics Restoration Show
It was a pleasant surprise to discover CGU 473H had made the final ten cars for the
Practical Classics Restoration Show. A look at the calendar revealed the show was on days
two and three of a pre-booked holiday in North Yorkshire! We had a family discussion and
came up with a plan, we decided to try and attend the show without impacting too much
on our holiday. The only way we felt this was achievable was to drop the car at the NEC on
Friday the 11th, proceed onto our holiday destination in a hire car, and come back on
Sunday 13th for day two of the show and to collect the 3-Litre. A phone call to Neil
Campbell from Practical Classics was duly undertaken and Neil was very helpful and
managed to accommodate our proposal. So off we went, it was a little unnerving leaving
our pride and joy there and heading off!
We got up at an unearthly hour on the Sunday morning and headed off on the 180 mile
journey south to the NEC. We arrived at 10am and made a bee line for the car to ensure
all was well, thankfully all was well and the car looked lovely sitting on the stand. The
show was very busy indeed and I have to say had a great mix of things to see. The
autojumble was a pleasing place with the majority of the stalls there having really helpful
things to assist with a restoration. A refreshing change from the piles of rusty bits we see
at many autojumbles. As can be seen from the picture below the variety of cars on display
was very varied too!
A rare and pleasing sight at the show was an 1800 “UTE” which was sitting on a vehicle
lift on the Strongman Tools stand. A good excuse to take some photos of the underside.
This lovely MG Metro was getting more attention than the Rolls Royce parked next to it!
The Practical Classics Restorer of the year Stand
The day went predictably quickly, at 4pm, the votes had been cast and it was time for the
winner to be announced. Kevin Price with his Volvo “Saint car” was the winner and is seen
here along with the rest of the finalists receiving his trophy from Vicky Butler-Henderson
and Mike Brewer.
And here is the winning car
Well we flew the flag for our cars and the club, this was the first show of its kind and
we were pleased to be there and showing a 3-litre. We may not have won but did get
noticed; we had a great day out and showed an awful lot of people what an Austin
3-litre is. A lot of people who came over to chat had never seen one, those that had
come across one before knew little of them, and more than one person was seen on
all fours looking underneath the car in amazement at the rear wheel drive! On a
personal front this was the first time I had exhibited a car of mine at a big event, and
also the first time I had been to an indoor event. It was an interesting experience and
at times a little trying; I was a bit surprised to see the cars were not fenced off from
the visitors. More shocking was the number of people who felt it was ok to touch the
cars; I even had one cheeky so and so open a door on mine and have a peek about
inside! I didn’t expect that from “like minded folk” I must admit. That said no damage
was done and the many fingerprints left behind were soon wiped away, with our keys
collected there we were at 5.30pm just waiting for the doors of the NEC to be opened
and away we go. The organisers were very efficient in getting us out and away from
the venue; we literally drove out of the doors, onto the outer roads and onto the
motorways with no waiting around at all. A Great show and a great day, a welcome
addition to the show calendar, I am sure we will be back next year.
Now for a bit of a journey! Our Daughter is 180 miles away dog sitting in our holiday
cottage in North Yorkshire, so off we go on the journey back and to resume our
holiday. Thankfully no issues with the car or otherwise were encountered on the way
back, after a quick refuelling stop we did press on a bit on during this drive and
exploited the “A to B” characteristics of a 3-litre somewhat. Twisty roads as we know
are not much of an issue in a well sorted 3-litre, by the time we got to north Yorkshire
the dark and twisty roads over the moors proved an easy challenge and we were safely
back to our cottage at 9.20pm. A long a very pleasing day out and well worth the
effort needed to attend the show.
Holidaying in a Austin 3-litre
Well the show story brings us nicely onto this story really, I have a modern company car
and I do not have to pay for fuel for private use. Mainly for this reason the 3-litre is never
normally considered for holidays these days, particularly one with lots of miles involved.
We did however take the old dear on a lot of holidays in the 1980’s during our last
ownership of her. She has been to places as spread out as Yorkshire, Cornwall and
Guernsey in her active years as an everyday family car back in those days. Due to the
restoration show we decided rather than come all the way back to Ipswich after the show
was over, and then drive 300 miles North again, it would be better to use the car on
holiday, after all that is she was built to do, so use her we did!
We certainly gave her a good road test, we encountered one in three hills with hairpin
bends in them, some of the “roads” over the moors were hardly deserving of the title.
The picture below was taken just after we had encountered some hairpins on a one in
three hill, this bit is about a one in four but the photo doesn’t do it justice at all. By the
time we got to the bottom we had very hot smelly brakes indeed. Being an automatic car I
did find going up one in three and four hills required a bit of thought, the torque
converter does not let the engine rpm rise very much at road speeds this low. I soon got
used to approaching the hills a little quicker where I could, and there was no real issues
then, I did lock to gearbox in “low” a couple of times and let her go up at a leisurely
25mph in first gear which proved a good way to make progress. A manual car would make
easier work of this I guess as having a lower first gear and the more flexible control of the
engine rpm would be useful. That said we had no real issues with our progress.
We had a very enjoyable week driving around “Heartbeat Country” and managed
to photograph the car parked outside many of the places used in the making of the
programme. Here she is parked outside Scripps garage on a lovely warm evening.
It has to be said if it wasn’t for the Restoration Show we would not have taken the Austin.
We are so glad we did take her though. The car was built to be a long distance
comfortable cruiser and it was lovely to have used her for what she was meant to do, she
did all that was asked of her with reasonable ease. The looks received from people as we
drove along, and the conversations that came about whenever we parked up added
another very pleasant twist to using a classic car.
Inevitably given how hard were we pushing her at times, she used a bit of engine oil,
about 7 pints altogether which may sound a lot by modern standards but I guess is about
right for a 100,000 mile 45 year old engine which was at times working quite hard. I was
surprised to find she used about 3 pints of transmission oil though, that said given the hills
we were going up and down I suppose it has to be expected we used some transmission oil
as the gearbox was working very hard indeed on some of the inclines. Overall the fuel
consumption was quite good, it varied between 19mpg and 22mpg which was better than I
had hoped for and had indeed budgeted for. I always use the expensive unleaded too as I
find she doesn’t “pink” on that grade. We did pop in and see a man near Sheffield on the
way home as I had arranged to buy and collect some spares; there were more spares than I
thought so she was well loaded on the way home but took it all in her stride. These really
are great cars for touring, a lovely 300 mile drive home and I just didn’t want to stop
driving her. We covered 750 miles in 8 days and the Austin didn’t miss a beat. Classic
motoring at its finest and some lovely memories, and we even had sunshine!
It’s all about the ride – by Richard Fawthrop
As we all know the 3 Litre is famous for its magic carpet ride, created by the
sophisticated, self-levelling, Hydrolastic suspension system. For me, it’s probably the
main reason why the car is so interesting.
I had my first ride in a 3 Litre back in 1973. It was a company car and, as we drove along,
I remember its allocated owner moaning, in predictable fashion, about how sluggish and
old fashioned it was. I, by contrast, was utterly mesmerised by the luxury of the
upholstery and by the silent and stately manner in which it moved along the carriageway.
This is what I had in mind, when I bought YOH 431J in 2006. Driving back home with such
dignity and poise, it really felt as though I had succeeded in recreating the experience I’d
had as a boy.
As the years went by, however, I began to notice that all was not well with my magic
carpet. In the summer months I could hear an irritating squeak, which seem to be coming
from the rear springs. In time it felt as though one of the rear displacers had completely
seized up. The car
began to pitch
about in ungainly
fashion and as I
bouncing along on
the tyres, it felt
more like driving
an old mini than a
Time to consult
Neil has been
breathing 3 Litres
for the past
so he, if anyone,
would know what was wrong. I have to say I feared the worst. What if I needed a new
displacer or some other obsolete part? Pictured here is YOH 431J and CGU473H outside
When I explained the problem, Neil knew straight away what it was – seized radius arm
bushes! What’s more, he had recently arranged for this very part to be re-manufactured!
I couldn’t believe my luck and I immediately ordered a set, comprising four split metal
rings, lined with the very toughest ‘DX’ yellow plastic – exactly the same as the original!
All I needed now was someone to take on the job of fitting them and I so popped the car
down to Nick at my local garage, handed him the workshop manual and hoped for the
Nick is always very helpful but, on this occasion, he seemed more than a little hesitant at
the prospect of completely dismantling the rear suspension of a 43 year old car!
I could almost hear the relief in his voice when, having de-pressurized the Hydrolastic
system, he called me a few hours later to inform me that the rear suspension arms were
not seized after all!
He suggested that we should simply change the two big Hydrolastic cylinders underneath
the back of the car, flush out the system and re-fill with new Hydrolastic fluid.
So that’s what we did – and it didn’t work!
Neil Gets Stuck in!
When I related this to Neil he was quick to point out why. The radius arms operate under
great loading. With the car jacked up and the rear wheels hanging down there would be
negligible loading on the old bushes and so the suspension arms would move up and down
freely, giving the impression that the bushes are not seized at all. He said that he could
guarantee that the ‘DX’ plastic on the old bushes would have completely worn away and
that what was left of the old lubricating grease would be like thick glue!
I think Neil could see that I was in a desperate spot. Despite his busy schedule, he kindly
agreed to step in and do the job for me.
What a difference it makes when someone knows exactly what they’re doing!
So That’s what a rear displacer looks like!
Depressurize the Hydrolastic system. Remove the rear silencer and detach the differential
to reveal the rear displacers. With these lowered, you can get at the radius arm
levers – short, stubby things which point down almost vertically and press against one end
of the displacers.
The housing containing the radius arm bush
Incredible, how, after all these years, all the bolts turn without difficulty. Now open up
the housing and the radius arm bushes become visible. Amazing! Neil’s prediction of
what they would look like is 100% correct!
We’re on the home straight now! Knock out the old bushes and tap in the new ones.
Smear with high quality grease. All that’s left to do now is to reassemble everything and
pump up the suspension.
New DX Radius arm bushes.
Tapping in the new Bush
And then the moment of truth! A quick bounce up and down on the boot lip reveals a
huge difference in the displacement of the rear end of the car – now it moves up and
down by as much as 5 inches! The test drive confirms that the operation has been a
complete success. I’m sure you can imagine the big smile on my face as I float all the way
down the A12 back to London, my magic carpet ride now fully restored.
In my opinion, we’re all very lucky to have Neil as our Club leader. Thank you Neil!
Without doubt, you are the Man with the Knowledge!
(Kind words, thanks Richard, I was glad to be of help, nice we fixed the self levelling too, Neil)
Out and about
July 6th BMC and Leyland Show Heritage Centre Gaydon, Celebrate a host
of British vehicles, manufactured by BMC, British Leyland and Rover. Also
celebrating 30 years of the Montego. For more information here is a link to their
To download a 2014 events guide for the heritage centre click on this link.
August 2nd Austin’s at the Ace 6.00pm to 11.00pm. The first event of its kind
at this location, inspired by an idea from within the club. To see what the Ace has
to offer please follow the link. http://www.ace-cafe-london.com/default.aspx
Hope to see you there!
August 3rd BMC Day Ferry Meadows Park Nr Peterborough. Annual event
celebrating all things BMC. The 3-litre owners club have a stand space booked.
The website for the event is not very user friendly but here is a link anyway.
Odds and Ends
Classics in London
Transport for London is trying to implement an Ultra Low Emission Zone in central London.
This would prohibit the use of any non compliant vehicles within the zone, diesel vehicles
will have to be Euro 6 compliant. (cars registered new from 2014) And petrol vehicles will
have to be Euro 4 compliant. (Cars registered new from 2005) The original ruling was a
block ruling on all vehicles. TFL have now seen sense and given dispensation for classic
vehicles. If this dispensation had not been given the London to Brighton run and the
Regents Street Motor Show would have been under threat as well as many business’s who
rely on the classic vehicle industry. Of course many thousands of car owning London
residents are still facing a rather trying time and possibly a change of car to comply with
the new ruling. It seems a little crazy that I will be able to drive my 45 year old Austin
into the city but not my 8 month old Ford!
The good old tax disc was introduced in the UK in 1921 so it is something we have all
always had to have to drive our cars legally, the Government have decided that due to the
electronic systems now being used it will no longer be required to display a tax disc in
your windscreen from the end of October 2014. You still have to apply on tax exempt
vehicles and pay for chargeable vehicles of course. Another change to the taxation of
vehicles is that the rolling tax exemption is to be re-introduced, vehicles will be eligible
once they reach 40 years old but the exemption is not automatic, you will have to apply
and have your taxation class changed. All 3-litres are tax exempt in the UK as we know.
Bottom Hoses are now available again
I last had these remade in 1995! As these rarely come up as a new old stock part, and,
I guess in desperation, when they do appear they are normally bought for more than their
real worth. I think the time is right to get them remade again.
have received the first hose back and it is perfect. The minimum order was 20 hoses, less
than that I have to pay a tooling cost which is wavered at 20 hoses. The hoses will be
available by the end of May.
I still have good stocks of top hoses which have been stored in the dark so they will be
fine. I can get these remade too when we need to.
Next newsletter end of July 2014